Thursday, 29 April 2010

Electoral Reform?

Interesting debate in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament this morning on proportional representation.  There will be a vote on it at 5pm this evening... I suspect I know what way that will go.  Anyway, worth a listen.

Apparently the video is having some difficulty working, but you can see it here.


All things bright and bigoted

I don't think it is overstating yesterday's events to say that this might be the key point of the campaign thus far.  Sure, Nick Clegg's performance in the first Leaders' Debate earned him his place at the top table and spiked the Lib Dems poll numbers to make this a genuine 3-way tussle (and a genuine 4-way in Scotland).  But "Gordon's Gaffe", as it will be known for generations to come, is probably the point at which Labour's opportunity to turn the poll figures around ended for good.

Of course it was a private thought spoken aloud to an aide in a private moment. Of course no one was supposed to hear it.  And of course anyone can make a mistake, and I think the public does have some sympathy with that.  But the media storm that has ensued, the PM's reaction - on camera - when he heard what he'd said, his multiple apologies (45 minutes in Mrs Duffy's house!) and the fact that what the woman asked wasn't the least bit bigoted, merely a question that plenty of voters would like an answer to have turned this from private mistake to catastrophe for the PM.

Giving Gordon Brown his credit - he did appear absolutely mortified about what he'd said and the upset that he had caused.  And you can take into account the situation - a tough campaign trail, tough questions (though what appeared a pleasant conversation) and what he thought was a private moment.  But, ultimately, for a man who wants to return as PM, this was Bush league.  I'm not saying he shouldn't be allowed to have thoughts like this about voters.  Actually, maybe I am.  The politician who discounts what the electorate thinks of an issue as unimportant or bigoted... well, he doesn't deserve to represent the people who he claims to champion.  And - according to Iain Dale - Brown has refused to meet the people in his own constituency, ignoring EIGHT hustings invitations.  Perhaps this new "meet the people" strategy doesn't stretch to getting himself re-elected.

So - probably the best day of the campaign for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and they really didn't do much at all.  They certainly got very little coverage for it anyway - and they'll be happy enough with that.  My problem though, and its one I've had for a long time, is that candidates are not doing enough to convince people to vote for them.  Brown's gaffe yesterday underlines this point in more ways than one.  In engaging with the public in the way he has, all he has done is give the electorate one more reason not to vote for his party... or not to vote at all.  And many more are leaning towards the latter.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Election Manifestos

Having proved a few days ago how indecisive I am about voting, I thought there must be some in the same shoes.  So, in order to help those like me, here are the manifestos of parties standing in Scotland that I could get hold of online in pdf format (listed alphabetically):

British National Party (no online manifesto)
The Liberal Party (no online manifesto)
Scottish Christian Party (no online manifesto)
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (no online manifesto)

Hope this is useful.  I'll probably try to get through the seven that are standing in my constituency.

PS - I read today that Nick Clegg is under fire from the Daily Mail for an article he wrote lambasting British attitudes towards Germans EIGHT YEARS ago whilst he was an MEP.  I've read the article and I agree with Nick (which was last week's soundbite I know).  Britain remembers German's expansionist ambitions but not the travesties carried out in the name of Empire.  He's right - even 8 years on - the British air of superiority is lame.  


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Will people get what they want?

Quick post on how the system works, because it has been messing up my head for a few days now.

A couple of days (18 April) ago, an ICM poll had the parties at the following levels of support:

CON - 33%
LD - 30%
LAB - 28%

Not one to put that much stock in opinion polls (though I don't quite go along with Lord Foulkes idea that we shouldn't have them during elections) I'm taking everything they say with a pinch of salt.  There are, after all, 650 elections going on - not just one.  And yes, I know there have been a multitude of polls since then - by many different companies - but this poll is interesting for a particular reason.

Putting those poll numbers into Electoral Calculus, you get the following result:

LAB - 263 seats 
CON - 254 seats
LD - 101 seats

And that, for me, is what is incredibly interesting.  Ignoring the million caveats about polling companies' methods, margins of error, national swing etc, there's a larger point to be made if this happens and it is this:

Despite polling just over 1 in 4 of the eligible votes in the election - and having polled considerably fewer votes than either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats - Labour would remain the largest party in the House of Commons, albeit a long way short of a majority.

This emphasises the shortcomings in the electoral system - and the institutional bias against the Conservatives, emphasising the truth in a post I wrote in October.

Two things of note.  Firstly, if this is indeed how the public vote - indicating a minority preference for the Conservatives - how will they react if Labour end up winning a fourth term in office?  And secondly, and perhaps ironically for the Tories, it probably puts electoral reform on the table (if there was indeed a Lab-Lib coalition) which is something they are resolutely opposed to.

Interesting stuff.  Doesn't help me any - but interesting nonetheless.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What matters?

I have a problem.  Its getting difficult to hide it now.  I'm embarrassed about it.  I walk down the street and see other people who don't look like they have the same problem and I feel like I'm the only one.  I've decided I have to just come out and say it:

I'm a genuine undecided.

I have a problem on so many levels.  I'm pro-independence - both at national and individual level - which makes me a liberal and conservative nationalist.  I'm green too.  I preach to my students that a General Election is just that - 650 different elections on the same day so it strikes me that I should look at the candidates in my own constituency.  But then this is going to be a close election, fine margins will make the difference and therefore the bigger picture matters too.  Who will form the government?  Will it be a majority or minority - or a coalition?  Will my vote matter?

And so my choice takes stock of the UK level, the leaders, the policies, the TV debates.  But then, not all of what they say is relevant to me - health, education, transport policies are true for England, but not for Scotland.  I'm impressed with "Dave" - though others are not, I find him genuine and fresh - a 2010 Tony Blair (though we know how that ended).  I was impressed too with Nick Clegg in the debate - though he was not challenged too much on policy, he could only play the opponents who were against him.  Less impressed with Gordon Brown - I think he's really had his chance, and made a bit of a mess.  

But should impressions of these three matter?  I mean, yes, one of them will be PM, but I'm unlikely to ever meet them, much less have any reason to write to them.  Yes, they will shape the country for the next 4/5 years (or 6 months if it is that tight).  But they won't shape my local area, and that matters too.

I'm currently represented by a Labour MP, who has - occasionally - voted against his government, but not as often as I would like.  According to the multitude of Lib Dem leaflets I have collected over the past few weeks, only they can beat Labour here.  Which is true - to an extent, but only if people vote for them.  I'm really not a huge fan of the SNP candidate here, and while I appreciate some of what Cameron says about the Tories, I haven't heard anything from their candidate.  I also have the choice of a Green candidate here, and if it were a PR election undoubtedly they would get more consideration, but they are probably squeezed out of my thinking on the back of how tight the whole thing is going to be.

So, I'm asking - what should matter more?  Local or national (or international)?  Individual or collective?  Policy or projection?  Style or substance?  And will it make a difference either way?

I'm in dire need.  Please take some time out of your day to help.

Yours truly, 
Confused, Edinburgh

PS - this supposed to help you decide to vote... and they are all right - it is time to make your mind up.  Easier said than done though!


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

An election you say?

Well, well, well.

It's finally been announced.  Four weeks tomorrow we (and I use "we" loosely - around half of us) will go to the polls and vote for a new MP and, consequently, a new government.  Those that want change will vote for someone different and hope they have enough support to be elected.  Those that want to stick with the devil they know will hope enough of their fellow voters agree with that sentiment.  Everyone has the choice to vote (even those in the 382 constituencies which are classed as "safe" seats - though in those cases the choice will probably be between the sitting MP and beating them).

Anyway, I know I haven't posted much - and probably won't improve that record over the next few weeks - but I thought I better put on record my predictions for May 6th.  So here goes.

David Cameron will become the next Prime Minister.  The Conservatives, despite all the recent chat about opinion polls tightening and hung parliaments, will end up with a majority of around 40.  The polls will tighten - but only in as far as cutting the Tory lead from the 10-11 points it currently is to 7 or 8.

In Scotland, the SNP will win the national share of the vote, but will get scant reward.  They'll make two gains - in either Dundee West, Livingston, Kilmarnock & Loudoun, Edinburgh East or (more doubtful but still possible) Stirling or Ochil & South Perthshire.  But they'll lose Glasgow East back to Labour and have to fight off Tory challenges in Angus and Perth & North Perthshire.  

The Tories will turn the borders blue, with wins in Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk, Dumfries & Galloway... as well as 2 potential surprises in Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, Argyll & Bute, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, Edinburgh South and Edinburgh South-West as Scotland returns (vaguely) to the Tories, giving them 20% of the vote and 5 MPs north of the border.  

The Lib Dems will, I think, lose their position that the Iraq war gave them in 2005 and won't make any real gains but losing Michael Moore in the borders and potentially West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, Argyll & Bute as well as the opportunity of a gain in Edinburgh South make it a tough night for Tavish.  I still expect them to hold on to around 8 or 9 seats, making them the second party in Scotland in seats but likely fourth on vote share.

And what of Labour?  Well, a night to forget.  They'll gain back Glasgow East from the SNP but most of the night will be a rearguard action, fighting tough battles across Scotland - and the rest of the UK - and several current Cabinet ministers are in danger of leaving the Palace of Westminster for the last time. I reckon to see 37 Scottish Labour MPs, down two from 2005 - probably in the shape of 2 losses to the SNP and one to the Tories - which, on the face of it, would not be a disaster, and they'd have the electoral system to thank for it.

So there.  I reckon some people may have better predictions (and advice on tactical voting) but I don't think I'll be far off.  Kind of makes the point the Electoral Commission is making - only a hundred or so seats will be proper contests, and only 6 or 7 seats in Scotland will (in my view) change hands.  But I guess that's what the next four weeks are about.  Onward!



Feel free to get in touch with me if you have an issue with something you've read here... or if you simply want to debate some more! You can email me at:

baldy_malc - AT - hotmail - DOT - com

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